Lifestyle & Culture

The Brexpat Survival Checklist: Dispatches’ essential guide for the anxious Brit in the EU

Calling all European Union-based British expats! Hello and welcome to this far from complete, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek Brexpat Survival Guide to preparing yourself for Britain’s exit from the EU. Should it ever actually happen.

We’ll cover essential topics such as stockpiling proper tea and Marmite, and other less interesting issues such as making sure you’re legally allowed to stay living and working in the country you’ve called home for the last six years, and that your children will continue to have medical coverage. Less exciting, but equally pertinent, of course. 

Ok, spit spot! Let’s get on with it, chaps. 

1. Check in with the “Living in the EU” and “Getting ready for Brexit” pages from the British Government to keep up-to-date with any changes to the situation that may be relevant to you. 

There are individual guides for UK citizens living in each EU country

In fact, just keep shortcuts for all of these pages on your homepage and hit refresh at 10-minute intervals since it could clearly all change at any time. They should definitely consider adding a “Taking care of your fragile mental health during the Brexit process” section. 

(Also see Dispatches’ running list of what provisions individual countries are making for their British citizens.)

2. Check that your passport will be valid for travel/residence in your home country after Brexit, and update it if necessary. 

Some countries require you to have six or more months remaining on your passport in order to enter the country (note that this may not include any additional months that might have been carried over when you renewed your previous passport). 

Or you know … you could hold out, risk getting thrown out of the country and wait until after we leave the EU so that you can get a shiny new blue one instead. Pros and cons for each strategy, really.

3. Find out how you can apply for a residency permit for your current country of residence following Brexit. 

Some countries have already begun to preemptively issue residency permits for Brits living in their countries. And they said the EU was inefficient! Others are holding off until they can figure out what is actually going on in the UK. So that may take a while.

4. Make sure you’ve exchanged your British driver’s license for a shiny new one from your country of residence. 

Do this BEFORE the Brexit deadline on the 29 March 12 April 31 October 31 January. Once the UK leaves the EU (particularly in the case of a no deal scenario), you may need to take a driving test before qualifying for your new license. Which means you’ll have to officially demonstrate to someone that you’re able to competently drive on the right (wrong) side of the road.

Not ideal! 

5. Check the latest information about healthcare entitlements and pensions for British citizens living in your current country of residence. 

If you are a pensioner living in Spain, with a costly medical condition, who voted to leave and are now having second thoughts about that, you can find more information about the “People’s Vote Campaign” here. Don’t worry, maybe you’ll get a do-over! 

6. Order all of your British essentials now. 

Your tea, mint sauce, Cadbury’s chocolate, Marmite, Bisto gravy, mince pies. ….

Who knows how long the delays could be on shipping goods from the UK following Brexit? The EU might even make us pay customs duties on our PG Tips!!! That’s certainly not what we signed up for when we voted out in 2016. Or perhaps that’s exactly what we voted for. Oops! 

Amazon offers discounts on all of these fabulous essentials if you buy them on “subscribe and save,” which is both economical and efficient. Because if you opt for 3-month delivery intervals, you should always receive your new shipments right before the UK reaches each new Brexit extension deadline.


7. Consider purchasing travel insurance for any planned travel back to the UK that falls after the Brexit deadline. 

Remember that the European health insurance card (EHIC) may not be valid for EU residents traveling to the UK following Brexit (and vice versa). This includes British citizens who are not resident in the UK.

So if like the general British population you decide to, say, intentionally shoot yourself in the foot during your trip, you may want to make sure you have adequate medical coverage to cover the costs of a visit to A&E. 

It may also be helpful to have travel insurance that could help take care of the unexpected in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Delays, flight cancellations, and difficulties returning back to the EU are all possibilities if the UK should suddenly throw itself off a cliff leave the EU without a deal. 

Further prepare for your UK trip by mentally rehearsing how you will respond to your uncle when he demands to know why you care so much about the outcome of Brexit in the first place. I mean you don’t even live here anymore, right? What’s it got to do with you anyway? 

8. If you are eligible to vote in UK elections, make sure your overseas voter registration is up to date. 

Overseas voters need to update their registration every year. It now seems that there will be a snap election on 12 December. (That should make for an exciting Christmas Panto!)

So if you’d like to have your say as to who should be making all of these complex decisions that will impact the UK for an entire generation (no pressure), then you’re going to want to make sure you’re on the electoral register before the registration deadline (currently 26 Nov).

Since the election falls right in the middle of one of the busiest times of year for the postal service, there’s a chance that Santa’s elves may not be able to deliver postal ballot papers across Europe with enough time for them to be returned before the deadline of 22:00 on election day.

So unless you want to go to your UK polling station in person on the 12th, you may want to consider applying to vote by proxy. You can ask a friend or family member to cast your vote at the local polling station on your behalf. Perhaps not your uncle though, hey? 

If you’re a British citizen living overseas for more than 15 years, be aware that you may be ineligible to vote in UK elections or referendums. You might also be feeling pretty annoyed or even outraged at that given the current political climate and the impact that the decisions being made could have upon your life. 

If so, you’ll be happy to know that a bill has been making its way through parliament this year that could reinstate life-long voting rights to British citizens living overseas.

You may be less happy to learn the bill didn’t manage to complete the passage through parliament before the end of the session, because Parliament got bogged down by other issues, such as – you guessed it – Brexit. Of course! 

That’s all folks. You are now Brexit ready. Congratulations!

Now pour yourself a stiff drink and anxiously cry into it as you await further instruction. 


About the author:

Laura Kaye is a freelance writer, researcher and editor. Her work focuses on social and development issues, parenting and family life.

Originally from the Wirral in the United Kingdom, she is a serial expat now happily living in Berlin, Germany.

You can see all of Laura’s Dispatches posts here.

Laura Kaye is a freelance writer, researcher and editor. Her work focuses on social and development issues, parenting and family life.

Originally from the Wirral in the United Kingdom, she is a serial expat now happily living in Berlin, Germany.

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